A Social Sciences teacher and member of the Florida Education Association filed suit today against the governor, members of the Cabinet and the education commissioner over legislation passed earlier this session that significantly expands the state’s private corporate voucher program.
Tom Faasse, a teacher at East Lee County High School in Lehigh Acres, is challenging the manner in which Senate Bill 850 became law in May, according to a press released issued on Wednesday by the Florida Education Association. Specifically, the fact that the state's Constitution requires that "every law shall embrace but one subject," while in fact the bill 850 contains multiple subjects, some of which are not expressed in the bill's title.
"Is this any way to pass laws?” Faasse says in a statement. “The people of Florida should expect that laws are clearly expressed and properly vetted and that laws that failed to pass shouldn’t be tacked onto unrelated legislation at the 11th hour.”
“It’s an outrage that corporate voucher expansion was tacked onto an unrelated bill and slipped into law on the session’s final day,” says the FEA's Joanne McCall. “These voucher schools have little regulation, don’t have to follow the state’s academic standards, don’t have to hire qualified teachers and don’t have to prove to the state that they are using public money wisely. There’s no link between vouchers and gains in student achievement. Yet the Legislature continues to expand voucher schools instead of providing proper funding for our neighborhood public schools.”
Immediately after the lawsuit was announced, House Speaker Will Weatherford, a big proponent of vouchers, tweeted, "So disappointed, yet so predictable: teachers unions fighting against school choice rights for low income and disabled children."
The current voucher program in Florida has been serving nearly 60,000 low-income families, but the new law passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Scott last month would let middle-income families in Florida to receive vouchers starting in 2016, and would also make it easier for low-income families to transfer into the program.
The new law removes a requirement that students attend a public school before becoming eligible for a voucher. The measure also creates “personal learning scholarship accounts” which help parents of disabled children get additional services for their children.